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'A daughter fair," enthused Milton, "so buxom, blithe and debonair." Little did he think that the adjective "buxom" would become a condescending term of abuse: an insult so demeaning that the use of it required an immediate and humiliating retraction from a grovelling Mark Fielding of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) last Wednesday.

So, what did the man say? Well, initially, to the Irish Times, on the subject of the proposed extension of maternity leave being voted on by the European Parliament, he said: "If there are candidates [for a job] and one is a buxom young woman of child-rearing years and the other is a fellow, who is an employer going to hire when he or she knows that they will have to pay 20 weeks' maternity leave?"


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